Bow Wow Wow

MIxtape: Royals 0

Popular music has always anointed its pioneers and stars with such honorific nicknames as the King of Pop, the Godfather of Soul, the Chairman of the Board, and the Queen of Disco. The 80s saw an abundance of songs and group names that wanted to be regal. If we all agree that David Bowie is definitely the Godfather of New Wave, then who is worthy to be crowned the King(s) or Queen(s) of New Wave?  Chris Rooney decides. (To listen to this or follow any of our playlists on Spotify, click here.) 

The Smiths, “The Queen Is Dead” (1985)
Thirty years after Morrissey proclaimed the end of her majesty; stodgy QEII is still kicking. The self-deprecating ditty is loosely based on the real account of a Buckingham Palace intruder who broke into the palace and entered the Queen’s bedroom.

Eurythmics, “The King and Queen of America” (1990)
Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart were pretty spot on with their costumes and settings that parodied American culture in the 1980s from game show hosts to the Reagans to Hollywood stars to ordinary folks from the heartland. As part of Eurythmics and a soloist, Annie has earned the title “most successful female British artist in UK music history” and the “Brits Champion of Champions”. How’s that for accolades?

The B-52’s, “Queen of Las Vegas” (1983)
If Annie Lennox wanted to be queen of America, she’d have to put up a fight with Kate and Cindy of The B-52’s in order to rule over “Sin City”.

Generation X, “King Rocker” (1978)
Billy Idol’s first taste of success was with his original pop punk band before he ascended to greater heights going solo in 1981.

The Police, “King Of Pain” (1983)
Written after the separation from his first wife, Sting confessed his feelings in this song: “I conjured up symbols of pain and related them to my soul. A black spot on the sun struck me as being a very painful image.” References to the tragic stories of King Oedipus and King Midas emphasized the solitude of being alone at the top.

Prince, “When You Were Mine” (1980)
His Royal Purpleness dabbled in New Wave with some of his early work including this one. Cyndi Lauper even covered the song in 1984 on her debut album. Since Prince has a beef with YouTube, here’s Cyndi’s version.

Prefab Sprout, “King Of Rock And Roll” (1988)
Sophisti-pop makers Prefab Sprout imagined a washed-up early rock and roll one-hit wonder stuck performing his silly novelty song on the nostalgia circuit. Despite critical praise for their work in the 1980s, this song remains the band’s biggest success in their native UK, where it reached a modest #7.

Echo & The Bunnymen, “My Kingdom” (1984)
Ian McCullough in many ways is the heir apparent to the self-proclaimed “Lizard King”, Jim Morrison. Since their early days, The Bunnymen drew comparisons to The Doors and later went so far as to record a version of “People Are Strange” and employed Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek on their original song, “Bedbugs And Ballyhoo”.

King, “Love & Pride” (1984)
Named after lead singer Paul King, the video for their debut single feels like a corny 1980s Hollywood take on Peter Pan complete with preadolescent “lost boys” breakdancing and spray painting in a remote Neverland dumping ground. Paul went on to work as a VJ for MTV and VH1 in Europe after the band split.

Adam & The Ants, “Prince Charming” (1981)
Adam’s whining at the beginning of the song makes it abundantly clear that he really, really, really wants to be next in line to the throne.

Bow Wow Wow, “Prince of Darkness” (1981)
Maybe Adam Ant’s bandmates turned to the dark side when they jumped ship and formed Bow Wow Wow under then-de facto manager Malcolm McLaren’s auspices?

Thompson Twins, “King For A Day” (1985)
After touring solo for the first time in 2014 after a long absence, lead singer Tom Bailey said, “In a way, ‘King For A Day’ is a song that explains why I’ve been missing for 30 years.  It kind of says the whole fame and fortune game doesn’t ultimately satisfy me, and I got distracted by other things. So although I’m glad to be back and sorry about being away for so long, this is my excuse.”

The Dukes of Stratosphear, “The Mole from the Ministry” (1985)
Taking a cue from The Beatles’ alter ego Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, XTC released a very ‘60s psychedelic-influenced album under the pseudonym The Dukes of Stratosphear.

The Stranglers, “Duchess” (1979)
With a public image anything but choirboys, The Stranglers nevertheless dressed up like them for the song’s banned-by-the-BBC-for-being-blasphemous video. Maybe it also touched a nerve for taking a very downtrodden working class jab at England’s aristocratic pretentiousness.

China Crisis, “King in a Catholic Style (Wake Up)” (1985)
I feel like I was the only American teenager who bought the Liverpudlian band’s 1985 album, Flaunt the Imperfection, which was produced by Walter Becker of Steely Dan jazz rock fame. Just because I was a big Anglophile then doesn’t mean that I thought that the American Revolutionary War wasn’t totally worth it.

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Mixtape: People Who Died 0

Just like the Academy Awards has its In Memorium segment, Mad World guest mixtape-ologist Chris Rooney presents a somber look back at those we have lost from the new wave decade.

“Walk in silence/Don’t walk away, in silence…” Ian Curtis’ opening lyrics from Joy Division’s last single, “Atmosphere” is the perfect funeral hymn to remember the small number of singers and musicians that have passed on from this era. While drug and alcohol overdoses have been the main culprit of many musicians’ deaths in other genres, the following have been lost to other ravages of time. (To listen to this or follow any of Lori Majewski’s Spotify playlists, click here.)

01. Ian Curtis (15 July 1956 – 18 May 1980) of Joy Division, “Atmosphere”
On the eve of their first American tour, troubled 22-year-old Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis took his life. The music video accompanying the song’s 1988 re-release was directed by Anton Corbijn who would later directed the 2007 Ian Curtis biopic, Control.

02. Ricky Wilson (March 19, 1953 – October 12, 1985) of The B-52s, “Give Me Back My Man”
The backbone of The B-52s, Ricky’s distinctive open tuning surf guitar sound came from playing only four strings with the third and fourth ones missing. He is reportedly once said, “I just tune the strings till I hear something I like, and then something comes out. No, I don’t write anything down. I have no idea how the tunings go.” Wilson, 32, died from complications due to AIDS in 1985, just a month after the release of the fourth B-52’s album, Bouncing off the Satellites.

03. Jimmy McShane (23 May 1957 – 29 March 1995) of Baltimora, “Tarzan Boy”
What do you get when you mix a group of Italian musicians with an Northern Irish singer named Jimmy McShane? You get Baltimora, best known for the one-hit wonder “Tarzan Boy” that came swinging through the jungle back in 1985. Ten years later, McShane fell victim to the AIDS epidemic at age 37.

04. Patty Donahue (29 March 1956 – 9 December 1996) of The Waitresses, “Square Pegs”
Aside from “I Know What Boys Like” and ‘Christmas Wrapping”, The Waitresses might still be remembered for performing the theme song to the short-lived American high school sitcom, Square Pegs at the end of the pilot episode. Lead singer Patty Donahue wouldn’t pursue music after the band broke up in 1984 and later lost her battle to lung cancer in 1996 at the age of 40.

05. Michael Hutchence (22 January 1960 – 22 November 1997) of INXS, “The One Thing”
Unlike the surviving members of Joy Division who remade themselves as New Order, the rest of INXS limped on after the 1997 suicide of their 37-year-old frontman Michael Hutchence with guest vocalists. In 2004, they even went so far as to audition a new lead singer on the American singing competition show, Rock Star: INXS.

06. Falco (19 February 1957 – 6 February 1998), “Der Kommissar”
It’s ironic that Austrian singer Falco is dancing in the street while being chased by the cops during his music video for “Der Kommissar” as he was later killed in an 1998 automobile accident. He was 40.

07. Ned “Ebn” Liben (1954 – 18 February 1998) of EBN-OZN, “AEIOU and Sometimes Y”
Recorded in 1981, EBN-OZN’s vowel-specific song has the distinction of being the first American commercial single ever recorded entirely on a Fairlight CMI synthesizer. After the duo split, Liben continued composing for others until he died from a heart attack in 1998 at the age of 44.

08. Rob Fisher (5 November 1956 – 25 August 1999) of Naked Eyes, “When The Lights Go Out”
Another two-man synth group employing the then-new Fairlight CMI sampling synthesizer, Naked Eyes had more success in the US than in their native England at the beginning of the ‘80s. Rob Fisher re-emerged a few years later as one half of the pop duo, Climie Fisher. His life was cut short in 1999 at the age of 42 following bowel surgery related to cancer.

09. Benjamin Orr (September 8, 1947 – October 3, 2000) of The Cars, “Drive”

While frontman Ric Ocasek sang most of the group’s songs, bassist Orr had the distinction of doing the vocals on their biggest international hit, “Drive”. Orr died in 2000 from pancreatic cancer at age 53.

10. Stuart Adamson (11 April 1958 – 16 December 2001) of Big Country “In A Big Country”
After leaving the art-punk band, The Skids he founded, Adamson had commercial success with his next group, Big Country, fueled by their 1983 international hit “In A Big Country” thanks in part to heavy rotation on MTV. In November 2001 he was reported missing after being estranged from his wife and ordered to attend Alcoholics Anonymous. Three weeks later he was found dead in a Hawaiian hotel room from an apparent suicide. He was 43.

11. Robert Palmer (19 January 1949 – 26 September 2003), “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On”
Whether performing solo or fronting the short-lived supergroup, The Power Station, Robert Palmer always lent a touch of class with his sharp attire and distinctive voice. He died unexpectedly in a Paris hotel room from a heart attack in 2003 at the age of 54.

12. Malcolm McLaren (22 January 1946 – 8 April 2010), “Madame Butterfly”
The impresario/svengali behind The Sex Pistols, Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow, McLaren also embarked on his own musical ventures with a few hits including this adaptation of the Puccini opera. McLaren lost his life to peritoneal mesothelioma in 2010 at the age of 64.

13. Mick Karn of Japan (24 July 1958 – 4 January 2011), “The Art of Parties”
Best known for his fretless bass playing in the group Japan, Mick Karn later formed Dalis Car with Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy on their only album in 1984. A few years ago, the two were working on new material when Karn’s health declined. He finally succumbed to cancer in 2011 at the age of 52.

14. Chrissy Amphlett (25 October 1959 – 21 April 2013) of DiVinyls, “Science Fiction”
While notorious for their 1990 eye-opening song, “I Touch Myself”, DiVinyls were already well-established in their native Australia since the early 80s with a string of hits like “Science Fiction”.
After a protracted battle with breast cancer and multiple sclerosis, lead singer Chrissy Amphlett passed away in 2013.

15. Bob Casale (July 14, 1952 – February 17, 2014) of Devo, “Just The Girl You Want”
A fixture since the origin of the group back in the early 1970s, Devo guitarist and keyboardist Bob Casale passed away earlier this year from heart failure at age 61. Their hyperkinetic 1980 video “Girl U Want” which came at their height of popularity was inspired by The Knack’s hit “My Sharona” from the year before. Who knows if Bob was buried wearing his Energy Dome…

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Mixtape: Songs About Animals! 0

Inspired by the cuteness of the internet and the awesomeness of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, here’s a bunch of new wave songs about a whole range of the animals with whom we share this world — and who could slaughter us all if they ever organized! (For the Spotify playlist, click here.)



Adam and the Ants: “Dog Eat Dog”
On “Dog Eat Dog,” you can practically hear Adam unshackling himself the old sound and S&M image that made him the Rodney Dangerfield of punk. While the music is still quite raw (and ominous: how I love that OOOWWWWW OOOOWWWWW), the words herald the arrival of a new Adam primed for pop stardom. “Our first single, ‘Dog Eat Dog’ was more or less a general assault on the public,” Adam told me during our Mad World interview. “I thought our music was better than everyone else’s, as every band does, and I put it lyrically. ‘Only idiots ignore the truth’ was a result of being ignored [by record labels and the press] for three years.” Hot “Dog” — Mr. Ant had arrived!


The Cure: “The Lovecats”; “All Cats are Grey”
I forgot to include “All Cats Are Grey” on our recent Color Mixtape, so I’m happy for this opportunity. The opposite of the playful “The Lovecats,” the Cure’s other kitty ditty sounds as solemn as its title. Sofia Coppola selected it as the song to play over Marie Antoinette’s closing credits, to signal the end of the party at Versailles and, indeed, the end of the young queen’s life (in the final scene, she’s being carted off to Paris where she’ll be imprisoned until her beheading). Call it mood-y music.


Duran Duran: “Hungry Like the Wolf”; “The Man Who Stole a Leopard”
“The animal within us” and “man versus woman” — or, rather, “man falling prey to woman” — are big themes in Duran songs. Interesting that, several decades post-“Wolf” — a Simon Le Bon metaphor that suggests sex brings out the animal in us  — Duran returned to the subject with “Leopard” (lyrics by Nick Rhodes), a love story between a man and actual feline.


“Lions,” Tones on Tail
I haven’t thought about this song in years! Our friend Jeremy suggested it. He’s just back from an African safari expedition, so he has big cats on the brain.


“Rock Lobster,” The B-52’s
Another Jeremy anecdote: One of his first jobs was hosting at a Red Lobster in Kissammee, FLA. Even before I was a vegan, you wouldn’t catch me eating crustacean flesh. Gross.


“Bring on the Dancing Horses,” Echo and the Bunnymen
I’ve been on an E&TB kick these days, thanks to their excellent new record. But watching this video had me lusing for the Ian McCulloch of his beautiful, pillow-lipped, big-haired heyday. And what a poet: “Shiver and say the words/Of every lie you’ve heard.” Sigh. If I could go back in time, I’d be an Bunnymen groupie. Although I’d probably get punched out by Courtney Love — that was her turf.


“Cat People (Putting Out Fire),” David Bowie
Love the song, but the movie terrified me. I always say how I’d like to come back as a cat in my next life, but the kind who lay around all day, not the kind in Cat People. Yikes!


“Release the Bats,” The Birthday Party
“Bite! Bite!” This one’s for my goth buds — particularly one of my oldest friends, Stacey. As a teen she insisted we call her Vampira. She had a pen pal named Morbidia, who insisted they trade vials of blood by mail. This being at the height of the AIDS epidemic, we suggested that wasn’t such a good an idea.


JB’s Picks

“I Want A Dog,” Pet Shop Boys
Pet Shop Boys have this little trick they deploy here and here where they take what seems like an unremarkable dance track and infuse it with unexpected emotion. That’s what happens with this Frankie Knuckles-produced song from Introspective, which pounds away for a few minutes until Neil Tennant starts singing, “I want a dog, a chihuahua, when I come back to my small flat I want to hear somebody bark, you can get lonely, I want a dog.” And then you realize you’ve just heard the saddest song ever made.


“See Jungle! (Jungle Boy),” Bow Wow Wow
Technically, nothing to do with apes, but Annabella does exhort the listener to throw off the constraints of civilization and live like a shit-flinging simian.


“Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag,” Pigbag
“Blue Monday” was a million times more successful, but this was the other monster independent dance record of the time. With New Order, you could maintain your sullen moody persona on the dance floor, but when this came on and the horns started blaring, all pretensions went flying out the window.


“Lions After Slumber,” Scritti Politti
Holy shit, this is a virtuoso performance. I love the gleaming sweatless perfection of latter-day Scritti Politti, but this b-side to “The ‘Sweetest’ Girl” has some real fire in its belly. It’s less a song than a lengthy, and I think largely improvised, litany of Green Gartside’s possessions, obsessions, failings, aspirations and pretensions. He keeps the ball in the air for more than six minutes and you can hear him getting lost in the track and you get lost along with him.


“Welcome to the Monkey House,” Animal Magnet
How is it I can’t remember where I left my keys and yet I am able to summon up the title and performers of a song I heard maybe once more than thirty years ago? Anyone? You Tube commenters lead me to believe Animal Magnet were a big deal in Birmingham and this was a major label release so perhaps there’s a Duran connection. Anyway, kind of fun in an overblown, affected way.


“Crow and a Baby,” Human League
Yeah, I’m aware crows aren’t animals, but Noah made room for two of them in the ark, and he was acting on orders from God, so who am I, or you, to contradict God and Noah? We commented in MW:TB that “Being Boiled’”s “Listen to the voice of Buddha/ Saying stop your sericulture” was one of the great unsettling opening lines in music history. “A crow and a baby had an affair/the result was a landslide, the result was a dare” runs it a close second. And it still weirds me out all these years later.


“Evidently Chickentown,” John Cooper Clarke
AMC’s PC-saga “Halt and Catch Fire” is far from a great show, but the music supervisor is doing an amazing job. I’m hearing songs on the soundtrack I never imagined popping up on an American drama: “Germ-Free Adolescents” by X-Ray Spex, “First Time” by The Boys, even “Are `Friends’ Electric”. But I don’t think I’ll ever be as astonished as I was when the nasal Northern voice of John Cooper Clarke, Manchester’s famous punk poet, turned up at the end of an episode of “The Sopranos”. The Martin Hannett-produced “Evidently Chickentown” is almost suffocatingly bleak and ominous. It fit perfectly into David Chase’s world of grudges and simmering violence. Here’s the scene and the song. (No chickens were harmed during this sequence. I don’t know that for a fact.)

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